Obesity Childhood Complications

Complications of obesity in children range from low self esteem to long-term health problems that can shorten life expectancy. Once relatively uncommon, obesity in children has increased dramatically since the 1970s. Many of the complications of obesity in childhood are only now becoming apparent, as obese children grow into adults with significant obesity-related health problems.

Complications of Childhood Obesity - Obesity in Children

Type 2 Diabetes and Obese Children

Type 2 diabetes was once known as adult-onset diabetes. This condition occurs when the body builds up a resistance to insulin, which the body uses to regulate blood sugar levels. According to the American Diabetes Association (2000), those 45 and older should consider routine testing for type 2 diabetes.

The surge in childhood obesity has seen an alarming increase in type 2 diabetes in teens. While still uncommon, what was once thought of as an adult disease is becoming more prevalent among children. When type 2 diabetes does occur in children, it usually develops in children who are overweight or obese.

Early onset of diabetes increases the risk of complications from the disease. Children with type 2 diabetes have a high risk of the following conditions later in life:

  • Amputation
  • Blindness
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney failure.

Metabolic Syndrome

Complications of obesity also include metabolic syndrome, a condition aggravated by high levels of insulin in the blood. This syndrome encompasses:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Increased risk of blood clotting
  • Problems with cholesterol.

According to the Hospital of Central Connecticut (2008), up to 75 million Americans of all ages are affected by metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome rates increases with weight, and is most common among the obese.

Hypertension in Children

Hypertension in children is another consequence of the obesity epidemic. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can occur due to excess weight. Hypertension in children is a risk factor for coronary heart disease and strokes at earlier ages later in life.

Additional Complications of Obesity in Children

In addition to diabetes, metabolic syndrome and hypertension, there are other complications of obesity in childhood. Childhood obesity increases the risk of other health conditions, including:

  • Asthma
  • Bone and joint disorder
  • Early puberty
  • Fatigue
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Liver disease
  • Skin infections and skin rashes
  • Sleep disorders, including sleep apnea.

Other complications of obesity in children develop in adulthood. Children who were obese have higher rates of the following conditions as adults:

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Strokes.

Obesity in Children: Emotional Problems

Obesity causes more than physical complications in children. Emotional problems are common among obese children. Emotional problems that typically accompany obesity are:

  • High levels of stress and anxiety
  • Increased risk of eating disorders
  • Increased risk of depression
  • Poor self-esteem
  • Poor social skills due to social isolation.

Obese children are more likely to be socially isolated than their peers, and more likely to be teased or bullied. Perhaps as a consequence, obese children may also engage in bullying, and may develop behavioral problems caused by the psychological stress of obesity.


American Diabetes Association. (2000). Type 2 diabetes in children and adolescents. Retrieved April 14, 2010, from http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/23/3/381.full.pdf.

Childhood Obesity Foundation. (n.d.). What are the complications of childhood obesity? Retrieved April 13, 2010, from http://www.childhoodobesityfoundation.ca/complicationsOfChildhoodObesity.

Ferry, R. (2008). Diabetes. Retrieved April 14, 2010, from http://www.emedicinehealth.com/diabetes/article_em.htm.

Hospital of Central Connecticut. (2008). Metabolic syndrome: The deadly epidemic you’ve probably never heard of. Retrieved July 26, 2010, from http://www.thocc.org/giving/article_details.aspx?MagazineArticleID=23.

Ludwig, D. (2007). Childhood obesity: The shape of things to come. Retrieved April 13, 2010, from http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/357/23/2325.

Luma, G.